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Tournaments | Story | 6/13/2019

Proctor's perfecto shows Sox mindset

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Reed Proctor (Julie Baldwin)

MARIETTA, Ga. – “Cool as a cucumber.”

It’s what Sox Baseball 17u head coach Rodney Dickinson said to pitcher Reed Proctor as he patted him on the shoulder after concluding his interview and rejoining his team before the start of Wednesday’s quarterfinals at the 2019 17u WWBA National Championship Qualifier.

Cool as a cucumber. It could also be used to describe Reed Proctor the day before when he was simply magnificent on the mound, firing a perfect game en route to the Sox 1-0 victory over Florida Baseball 17u.

“I was just hitting my spots,” Proctor said. “My changeup and curveball were really effective throwing them for strikes.”

And Proctor was about as efficient as they come. Over the seven innings, he needed just 63 pitches to seal the deal. That’s an average of nine pitchers per inning. The 6-foot-5 hurler struck out six batters along the way.

“Reed is a strike thrower and he pitches off his changeup,” Dickinson said. “Not many righthanded pitchers can throw changeups to both righties and lefties. He pitches off his changeup because he doesn’t throw extremely hard. He’s 81-83. He just hits spots and lets our defense work.”

Proctor said the thoughts of a perfect game didn’t cross his mind until the sixth inning. At that moment he remained poised on the bump and just kept pounding the strike zone, letting his teammates stay engaged behind him even if they were avoiding him to prevent any jinx.

“I kept my mind off of me throwing a perfect game,” Proctor said. “I just went out there and kept doing what I was doing the inning before.

“[My teammates] knew, but they definitely didn’t want to say anything to me to throw me off.”

When all that stood between Proctor and a perfect game was one out, he started the batter with a changeup before inducing a fly ball to left field on a fastball to end the game and begin the celebration.

Proctor’s performance was the epitome of the strong pitching that the Sox pride themselves on and used to carry them throughout the entire week. In the four pool play games, Sox Baseball allowed just two runs.

Noah Sweatman tossed a six inning shutout in the first game. Robert Willis and Andrew Villiger limited the powerful DRB Elite lineup to just two runs in the 3-2 win. And Austen Millians and Gage Rowe combined for a five inning no-hitter.

“It’s a luxury to have kids who you know can throw strikes because it gets everybody in the game and they’re looking for contact,” Dickinson said. “It just makes us a better team.”

Dickinson preaches a simple mantra to his pitching staff that yields extraordinary results.

“You just have to attack strike one,” Dickinson said. “If you get ahead, they’ve all got good enough stuff that especially with wood bats, you can get away with mistakes sometimes. There are very good players in this tournament like all qualifiers and WWBA’s, but you still have to throw strikes. If you fall behind, unless you have elite stuff, you’re going to get hit. When you pitch ahead good things happen.”

Sox Baseball runs its operations a tad unconventionally from the other travel organizations that take part in Perfect Game tournaments year after year. Based in Senoia, Ga., everyone on the Sox roster is comprised within a 20 mile radius, truly making them a local team.

Right now, Dickinson’s roster is loaded with uncommitted players, but he expects that to change as precedent demonstrates.

“I’ve probably had over 35-40 kids commit in the last three years, but they’re usually late signing guys,” Dickinson said. “D-II, NAIA, JUCO kids. That’s just kind of how I like to do it. I like to think we play a pretty good brand of baseball.

“We’re undersized. We’re usually the underdog. Nobody really knows who we are, but that’s kind of how we like it.”

If it wasn’t already the case before, the Sox put a number of team on notice with their run into the quarterfinals. That run eventually fell short with a nail-biting 5-3 loss to Duluth Noles 17u, the eventual champions, in extra innings.

Still, the foundation has been set for Sox Baseball and the summer ride ahead.

“They know I expect them to show up and give me their best effort,” Dickinson said. “If their best effort isn’t good enough against some of these rosters that are 20-24 deep with 15-20 D-I guys, that’s fine. That’s the way we’re built, and as long as they give me everything they’ve got, I have no problem.”
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